Carole Brooks: Covid-19 Learnings & Predictions

I’m sure you’d agree that our weeks and months in lockdown have been a challenge.

We’ve all had our trials, but the one thing that’s common between us, is that we’ve learned. Learned how to adapt. Learned how to cope. And learned how to remain optimistic.

Some of us have had to learn quicker – our incredible key workers.

Here, we share comments from Carole Brooks, Director of Carole Brooks Associates and a Senior Associate of The Staff College, about what she’s learned, and what she predicts for the future of Children’s Services when some kind of normality is restored.

 

THINGS I’VE LEARNED

  1. Less time travelling to or in meetings gives diverse benefits including reduced travel time and expenditure = better cost-effectiveness and efficiency. Not to mention some of the photos we see of the impact on the environment.
  2. Working remotely appears to have strangely led to better relationships in some cases… I have heard how professionals are spending more time ‘talking’ to children and families, more frequently via various methods. Personally, I think I have developed greater empathy and spend more time talking with people about how they are doing. Despite this, nothing can replace a real hug.
  3. How essential are good, consistent IT infrastructure and support. This includes access to speedy internet when working from home. A thought for those workers and families who may be ‘marginalised’ by this lack of access to technology or cheap/free connections…
  4. The impact on staff has been significant. Not only having to adapt but also being subject to experiences which are magnified or go against their moral or emotional norms. They will need support and opportunities to ‘debrief’ not only now, but over the coming months. I have been recommending the use of Restorative Circles as a good way to help them make sense of it and what happens next.
  5. The importance of self-care, routine and balance. Even if you are working at home – getting your ‘work’ head-on, have tea/lunch breaks and walk about, but cut yourself some slack if kids pop up in the background of your MS Teams meeting and you are reluctant to video conference because your hair really needs a cut …

 

MY PREDICTIONS FOR THE FUTURE

  1. We will continue having fewer physical meetings but we will require leaders to consider the workplace culture of the future and strike the right balance of virtual working, and face to face elements, to sustain good team working, inclusivity and belonging.
  2. I would like to hope and it seems a bit counter-intuitive, that there will be a greater emphasis on relationship-based practice.
  3. Increase in demand in the public sector system – referrals to children’s and adult services and early help services for domestic abuse, neglect, mental health (adults and children’s) as families cope with losing loved ones, worsened financial and employment status and the impact of lockdown on family relationships and well-being. How services and settings including schools triage, support, and work closely together around the child/family will continue to be critical.
  4. Those LAs which will be more successful will be those with good, adaptive leadership that are able to recognise and undertake difficult change well, at the right pace.
  5. Sadly, increase in safeguarding rapid reviews and inaccurate media reporting on perceived ‘failings’ that LAs have not kept children safe during this time, focus on blame and unwarranted deterioration in confidence in the system, rather than focussing on what a great job has been done in these extraordinary and difficult circumstances. The focus is unlikely to cease until late 2021/early 2022 when national data for this year is released.